Why Talk of Bank Capital ‘Floors’ Is Raising the Roof

2019-03-25T14:52:01-04:00June 8, 2017|

By Tobias Adrian and Aditya Narain

June 8, 2017

The headquarters of the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, which houses the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (photo: Christian Hartmann/Reuters/Newscom)

Calculating how much capital banks should have is often a bone of contention between regulators and banks. While there has been considerable progress on reaching consensus on an international standard, one key issue remains unresolved. This is a proposal to establish a “floor,” or minimum, for the level of capital the largest banks must maintain.

Some financial institutions and national authorities question the need for a “floor,’’ arguing either that differences in business models or other elements of the global regulatory framework—notably limits on the amount of leverage banks may take on—make them redundant. We disagree. The floor reduces the chances that banks can game the system to reduce their capital buffers to levels that aren’t aligned with their risks. It is an essential element of global efforts to create a level playing field for banks operating across countries by strengthening common standards for regulation, supervision and risk management.

(more…)

Why International Financial Cooperation Remains Essential

2019-03-26T09:34:17-04:00March 23, 2017|

By Tobias Adrian and Maurice Obstfeld

Versions in: عربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese), Français (French), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

Economic growth appears to be strengthening across the large economies, but that does not mean financial-sector regulation can now be relaxed. On the contrary, it remains more necessary than ever, as does international cooperation to ensure the safety and resilience of global capital markets. That is why the Group of Twenty (G20) finance ministers and central bank governors reiterated their support for continuing financial-sector reform at their meeting in Baden-Baden last week. (more…)

Finish the Job on Financial Regulation

2017-04-14T02:10:38-04:00January 23, 2014|

GFSRBy José Viñals

Brisbane and Basel may be 10,000 miles apart, but when it comes to financial regulation the two cities will be standing cheek by jowl.

At the next summit of the Group of Twenty advanced and emerging economies, to be held in Brisbane in November, political leaders will take the pulse of the global financial regulatory reform agenda, launched five years ago. The explicit goal of the Australian G-20 presidency is to finally complete these essential reforms. As Prime Minister Tony Abbott said today in Davos, “Financial regulation is always a work-in-progress, but these reforms now need to be finalized in ways that promote confidence without eliminating risk.”

I strongly support this extra push to create a safer financial system that can better support the needs of the real economy, and better protect taxpayers. For far too long, critics have been able to portray the G-20 reform agenda as a regulatory supertanker stuck in the shallow waters of technical complexity, financial industry pushback, and diverging national views. This image is increasingly off the mark.

(more…)

Banking on Reform: Can Volcker, Vickers and Liikanen Resolve the Too-Important-to-Fail Conundrum?

2017-04-15T13:35:39-04:00May 14, 2013|

by José Viñals and Ceyla Pazarbasioglu

The global regulatory landscape governing banks has changed from its pre-crisis status quo.

In addition to the Group of Twenty advanced and emerging economies led global regulatory reforms, like Basel III, the United States and the United Kingdom have decided to directly impose limits on the scope of banks’ businesses. The European Union is contemplating a similar move.

We discussed these structural banking reforms a few weeks ago with officials from finance ministries, central banks, and supervisory authorities from around the world during the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings. The design and implementation of these measures will have implications for global financial stability and sustainable growth, so we wanted to bring people together for the first global debate of the issue with G20 and other countries.

(more…)

Not Making the Grade: Report Card on Global Financial Reform

2017-04-15T14:03:37-04:00September 28, 2012|

by Laura Kodres

Despite a host of reforms in the right direction, the financial structures that were in place before the global crisis have not actually changed that much, and they need to if the global financial system is to become a safer place.

Although the intentions of policymakers are clear and positive, the system remains precarious.

Our new study presents an interim report card on progress toward a safer financial system. Overall, there is still a long way to go.

How we measure progress

In our study, we first tried to pay attention to those features of financial systems related to the crisis—the large dominant, highly interconnected institutions, the heavy role of nonbanks, and the development of complex financial products for instance—features that need to be addressed in some way.

To do this we needed to construct measures of these features in a way that would allow us to gauge how well the reforms are working toward changing them. We looked at a lot of data, but we focus on three types of features.

(more…)

The Long-term Price of Financial Reform

2017-04-15T14:03:41-04:00September 11, 2012|

by André Oliveira Santos and Douglas J. Elliott

In response to the global crisis, policymakers around the world are instituting the broadest reform of financial regulation since the Great Depression.

Some in the financial industry claim the long-run economic costs of these global reforms outweigh the benefits. But our new research strongly suggests the opposite—the reforms are well worth the money.

Granted, just as adding fenders, safety belts, airbags, and crash avoidance features can make cars slower, we know that additional safety measures can slow down the economy in years when there is no crisis. The payoff comes from averting or minimizing a disaster.

Five years after the onset of the current crisis, we sadly know all too well the cost in terms of economic growth, so the potential gains in avoiding future crises are very large.

Our study finds that the likely long-term increase in credit costs for borrowers is about one quarter of a percentage point in the United States and lower elsewhere. This is roughly the size of one small move by the Federal Reserve or other central banks. A move of that size rarely has much effect on a national economy, suggesting relatively small economic costs from these reforms.

(more…)

A Tale of Titans: The Too Important to Fail Conundrum

2017-04-15T14:22:14-04:00May 27, 2011|

By Aditya Narain and İnci Ötker-Robe

Folklore is riddled with tales of a lone actor undoing a titan: David and Goliath; Heracles and Atlas; Jack and the Beanstalk, to name a few.

Financial institutions seen as too important to fail have become even larger and more complex since the global crisis. We need look no further than the example of investment bank Lehman Brothers to understand how one financial institution’s failure can threaten the global financial system and create devastating effects to economies around the world. (more…)

Reducing the Chance of Pulling the Plug on Liquidity

2017-04-15T14:25:36-04:00April 6, 2011|

By Jeanne Gobat

The near collapse of the financial system that set off the global crisis was due in part to financial institutions suddenly lacking access to funding markets, and liquidity drying-up across securities markets.

Many financial institutions were unable to roll over or obtain short term funding without sustaining significant losses. This threatened to sink them.

Financial institutions did not factor in how their own responses to a liquidity shortfall could make the entire system shut down and less stable—that is, they underestimated their contribution to systemic liquidity risk in good times, and did not bear the cost of their actions on others in bad times.

It only takes a few institutions to pull the plug on a liquidity-filled bathtub before it runs dry, and the central bank needs to open the spigots again. (more…)